The 22 BEST things to do in South America (for 2019)
…by Bradley Williams
First off, “why 22?” I hear you ask. Well, these are the 22 best things to do in South America that gave us the most memorable 4 months of our lives!
Maybe for some, it took 21 things, or 23, or 57 or 92. For us, it was 22.
I would hate to imagine I would ever have missed out on a single one of these things to do in South America! I know there’s more to do and see and experience, seeing as South America is such a diverse continent.
In the North, you’re wearing flips flops and factor 50 sunscreen, and in the South, you’re wearing 2nd hand charity shop navy blue tracksuits and huddling in a blanket outside of Ushuaia airport.
One minute you’re at sea level and then a 12-hour bus ride later you’re at the highest administrative city in the world.
But one thing that never changed for me was the kindness, patience and generosity that we experienced from people along the way. It never faltered, not once!
So please read this list and take notes and maybe add a few to your own bucket list of must do things in South America. But just remember one thing …
It is the people of South America that make it the place that it is. It is the people that made these experiences so memorable and it is because of the people there that I will forever hold our 4 months spent there with such fondness in my heart.
So, in absolutely no particular order, let’s begin!
Wild Llamas aren’t the only things that make South America so awesome, but they do help!
- Live Like A Native in The Amazon Rainforest
- Cruise Down the Amazon on A River Boat – Just Not Quite How We Did It
- Amaze Yourself with The View of Rio De Janeiro From the Top of Sugarloaf Mountain
- Almost Drown in A Waterfall at The Iguazu Falls
- Get Lost in Tijuca National Park
- Buenos Aires – Experience All of Europe In Just One City … Wait What!?
- Let Your Imagination Wild on The Bolivian Salt Flats
- Trek to Marshall Glacier in Ushuaia
- Hear the Roar of Perito Moreno Glacier
- Stay with Locals on Couchsurfing.Com!
- Wander Deep into The Mountains at Cajon De Maipo
- Road trip Chile In A Cheap Rental Car
- Star Gaze in The Atacama
- Summit Torres Del Paine At Sunrise
- Give Back to The Locals in Peru
- Fail at Trying to Samba in Brazil
- Try Your Hand at Paragliding in La Paz
- Get A Peruvian To Teach You How to Surf
- Become the Richard Branson Of Your Own Island on Isla Del Sol
- Visit Mars – It’s Not as Far as You Think!
- Get Kissed and Thrown Around by A Female Bolivian Wrestler
- Help Save A Life In La Paz
Live Like A Native in The Amazon Rainforest
We spent 3 days cruising down ancient Amazonian tributaries looking for pythons, dolphins, caiman, sloths and monkeys. The evenings were filled with swimming in the river and the nights lying in hammocks listening to the deafening call of howler monkeys.
I held a caiman in my bare hands, then drank terrible Brazilian beer and spear-fished in the dark hours of the night. Our guide taught us how to fish for piranha and how for hundreds of years the natives had used trees to communicate with each other.
I left the Amazon tired, sunburnt and eaten alive by bugs … I would not hesitate to go back again.
Cruise Down the Amazon on A River Boat – Just Not Quite How We Did It
I have already opened my heart up to our experience of 7 days going down the Amazon on a local ferry. It’s something I don’t think I have the heart to do again, so just make sure you read the article. If you get the chance then do it, but just one piece of advice, take your own food!
Amaze Yourself with The View of Rio De Janeiro From the Top of Sugarloaf Mountain
You can spend hours walking the streets of Rio and spending long afternoons lying on the never-ending Copacabana beach. But for me, the best way to truly appreciate the beauty of this city is to get the cable cart to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, find the not-so-secret bar hidden amongst the trees, order a drink and a burger and gaze out across the city in style.
Almost Drown in A Waterfall at The Iguazu Falls
What an incredible moment this was! The park borders both Argentina and Brazil, and from all accounts we were told that the Argentinian side is the way to go, and so we did. From our experience, if you go then be sure to also go from this side and spend the extra money on a boat that takes you under the waterfall. The power of the waterfalls is phenomenal, so go prepared!
Get Lost in Tijuca National Park
So, few people seem to visit this place when they’re in Rio, and I can’t imagine why. It was in fact one of the very first things we did in South America. It’s incredibly vast and it feels so ancient. We got some great shots in there as well. We did get lost for a couple of hours which was fun, but luckily we found our way back as Cazzy decided to take a hypo and we’d almost run out of sugar.
Buenos Aires – Experience All of Europe In Just One City … Wait What!?
After 2 weeks being going down the Amazon and being in the rainforest, we quickly found ourselves in Buenos Aires, and what a culture shock it is! It literally feels like we were right back home, seeing as all the buildings are a myriad of European architecture; one minute you feel like you’re in France, and next in the middle of Berlin. It’s a fantastically diverse city, and the nicest way to experience it is to take one of the free walking tours. If you’re passing through the continent, you cannot miss one of the best cities in South America.
Let Your Imagination Wild on The Bolivian Salt Flats
The Bolivian Salt Flats are one of the most famous things to do in South America. You must have seen pictures from people who have been there, and it’s likely you will at least recognise them, check out a couple of our own below. I can’t remember anywhere else I’ve been that you can lie on the floor like a child and play with toys and for it to be considered normal! So much fun and endless possibilities. Our props of choice: Godzilla and The Incredible Hulk.
Trek to Marshall Glacier in Ushuaia
After a painstaking 3-and-a-half-hour uphill trek we found ourselves at the top of a ski slope in the southernmost city in the world; just to realise that the ski season had long gone and there wasn’t much of the glacier left. This didn’t stop me from making the most of it, and this has to be one of my fondest life memories so far as I made the most of the situation and decided to slide butt-first down my first ever glacier!
Hear the Roar of Perito Moreno Glacier
This is one of Patagonia’s most infamous tourist spots, and it’s not surprising. Giant blocks of ice drop off throughout the day and as they hit the water it lets out an echoing roar, similar to thunder in the distance. It’s really cooling to see, and a place you’re unlikely to ever be able to visit elsewhere.
Stay with Locals On Couchsurfing.Com!
We didn’t try Couchsurfing until we reached Santiago in Chile, which was about 2 months into our trip. But we’d experienced nothing but good-natured kindness from the Chileans and thought it must be worth a go. Our hosts, Carlos and Gabi, were awesome and they took us clubbing and taught us how to make Caipirinha and how-to Salsa dance. I’m pretty sure you can’t get an experience like that elsewhere! So, if you’re feeling confident then go for it, meeting and staying with locals will allow you to meet some truly amazing people.
Wander Deep into The Mountains at Cajon De Maipo
So, few people get to experience this awesome thing to do in South America and I consider we truly lucky to have been able to go. We decided to rent a car from Santiago, and it was only because of the people we stayed with from Couchsurfing that we were able to get this advice! After driving for an hour along muddy snowy roads in a gutless 1-litre rental car, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere surrounding by snow-capped mountains and resting in natural hot spring baths with not a single person around except for 3 local workers. On the way out, we did get stuck and the workers had to help push the car out of the mud (and in doing so I covered them in mud as the wheels spun it up at them), but you can ignore that minor issue.
Road trip Chile In A Cheap Rental Car
That same rental car from Cajon del Maipo drove us over 800 miles over 4 days through the heart of Chile where we got to see even more of the “off the beaten track” sights that tourists don’t normally get to see. This included volcanoes, waterfalls and vast inland lakes. We were happy to make the most of it too, as Chile has by far the best roads, you’re likely to find elsewhere on the continent and driving is certainly the best way to see South America. Also, from our experience, we would say Chile has to be the best country in South America.
Star Gaze in The Atacama
Again, the kindness of the local Chileans won us over as our host for the night took us outside and gave us a personal lesson about the stars in the sky and allowed us to use his own telescopes to look at them. Without pollution and clouds, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is one of the best spots in the world to look at the skies, and as your eyes adjust you get the unique opportunity to view millions of different stars that you never get the opportunity to witness back home. This was certainly one of the most unexpected things to do in South America, and we only had the chance to do it due to the kindness of our host.
Summit Torres Del Paine At Sunrise
Picture spending a night in a freezing cold tent after a long day of hiking, to then find yourself being forced out of bed at 4am to climb for another hour and a half to the summit of a mountain. Picture the exhaustion and weariness. And then picture yourself at the base of what is known as the Three Torres, looking across a sheltered bowl of water thousands of meters above sea level, and watching it light up to different colours as the sun slowly crests over the horizon. This was my all-time favourite moment from 4 months in South America. If you get the chance, then you have to go. Perhaps the exhaustion makes it all the more rewarding, but either way be sure to take a sleeping bag, so you can watch the sunrise in warmth.
Give Back to The Locals in Peru
There’s a hostel in Lima, Peru, where you get the choice to volunteer every Saturday by taking food to the poorer citizens that live in the “slums” of the city. It’s dreadful really as those living behind the wall are not allowed into the richer parts of the city, and if the police spot them they are escorted back. We went and helped give out food, and meeting the happy smiling mothers and children was really heart-warming and it’s great to know initiatives like those are underway, but the problem does seem to stretch quite far in the city. Either way, it was a fantastic experience and a real eye-opener, so if you find yourself in Lima then stay in the same hostel. It also helps that it’s an awesome place to stay and really cheap!
Fail at Trying to Samba in Brazil
In case you’ve never tried it before yourself, Samba dancing is hard … really hard! It’s also exhausting, and for someone like me, with no rhythm and white skin, you do feel a bit out of place at a local traditional Friday night Samba party. But it was great fun and allowed us to really immerse ourselves in the local culture. I’m grateful for our hostel’s owner being generous enough to invite us along so that we could make fools of ourselves.
Try Your Hand at Paragliding In La Paz
Being something, we’ve always wanted to try, and despite an ever-depleting reserve of funds, we decided to put our trust in 2 locals and head off paragliding. And after a 2-hour drive, and one or two near-death experiences, we were airborne at 4,000 feet high above the Bolivian capital of La Paz. My instructor caught some sort of air current and we just kept going higher and higher until I started to feel nauseous. But regardless, the rush and the views were spectacular, and even though I have a fear of heights, it didn’t bother me for one second. Paragliding high above the stunning Bolivian landscape has to be one of the best experiences in South America.
Get A Peruvian To Teach You How to Surf
Peru is definitely one of the best countries to visit in South America and, with 3 weeks surfing in Bali coming up, I decided to get a local to see if he could teach me how to actually stand on a surfboard; and for less than £20 I had my own private 2-hour session in the warm Peruvian waters off the beach of Lima. I can only marvel at his patience, and despite the odds, he pulled it off and I actually managed to stand up a few times. Bali, here I come.
Become the Richard Branson Of Your Own Island on Isla Del Sol
Who doesn’t dream of finding themselves atop their own private island in the sunny Caribbean?! Well, I guess I came a bit close with Isla del Sol. After an hour’s hike, I reached one of the highest points of this island that lies in Lake Titicaca which borders Bolivia and Peru. The views were stunning, and the weather was great, what more do you need! You can reach this island by ferry that runs twice a day back and forth from mainland Bolivia. We stayed a night in our own private beachside hut and ate food at a local restaurant. It’s fair to say, this is definitely one of the most underrated things to do in South America.
Visit Mars – It’s Not as Far as You Think!
In the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, there’s a place they call Moon Valley, and it’s not surprising as it bears a resemblance to the blank expanse of the moon, or to us, planet Mars. There’s plenty of tours that run there, and just make sure you’re ready for the sunset, check out our shot below.
Get Kissed and Thrown Around by A Female Bolivian Wrestler
I would never have guessed that I’d write that sentence at any point in my life! But it did happen, I promise. In La Paz, there’s a curiously entertaining event that occurs where native Bolivian women dress up and fight like WWE wrestlers in the middle of a school auditorium. Well worth a trip and great fun for the family, just don’t mess with them. Oh, and if they start walking around the crowd, don’t make eye contact or else like me you’ll get a nice juicy kiss.
Help Save A Life In La Paz
After 3 months in this continent, we thought it right to give something back, and after generous donations from friends and relatives back home we were able to donate £500 to a centre in La Paz that supports around 150 children who are close to life-and-death complications due to a lack of type 1 diabetic care from their government. Hearing their stories was heart-wrenching and I’m so glad we helped just a small amount. But after that day we vowed to do more and we have a few projects underway that will hopefully make much more of an impact on their lives. This was by far the most worthwhile thing we achieved in our time there and helped show me just how lucky we truly are in the UK.
Well, there you have it, my ultimate list of 22 best things to do in South America. Even if you’re not planning a trip there anytime soon, I hope this list has helped you understand why you should visit South America.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
by Kiki @ The Blonde Abroad
It took us four days of trekking the Inca Trail to finally reach Machu Picchu. It was one of the most incredible and challenging experiences of my life. Here’s a breakdown of each day leading up to our final destination… Machu Picchu!
Inca Trail Day 1: “No Problemo”
6:30 am wake up call and all ready for our first day on the Inca Trail. After breakfast in Urubamba, our host, Edwin, walked us to the bus stop to catch our bus to kilometer 82 of the Inca Trail. On the bus we met Juana and Pepe, our guides, and the rest of our group who we would be spending the next four days with. I had butterflies the entire drive there.
I didn’t really know what I was really getting myself into. All I heard was that it was going to be physically challenging and one of the most incredible experiences of my life. (A bit of a broad description if you ask me)!
We strapped on our bags, grabbed our walking sticks, crossed over the river, and began the trek. Our first stop was at the halfway point, Canabamba.
Juana showed us these local bugs that live in the cactus, or “tuna” in the native language Quechua, and when you squish them their “blood” produces a reddish pigment that is used for coloring fabrics and makeup.
We got some bug “war paint” and carried on towards our first campsite.
Mount Victoria was visible along the trail. It’s the only snow-capped mountain among the Andes we could see.
We walked 10 kilometers in total and felt pretty good once we reached camp. The view from our tent looked down onto the valley below with Mount Victoria in the distance.
Day one success, tomorrow is supposed to knock our socks off!
Inca Trail Day 2: “The Challenge”
We were up at 5:00 am and greeted with coca tea in our tent. Coca tea is made from coca leaves which are used for all kinds of things in Peru.
Yes, they are from the same plant used to make cocaine.
No, chewing or brewing the leaves does not give you a drug high. Coca leaves, in their natural state, are a traditional part of everyday life for Peruvians.
Now, as I was saying…
I couldn’t sleep last night so I woke up feeling completely useless and unprepared for the most challenging day of the four-day trek. For the length of the trek, we hired a porter.
A porter is a term used for a man that is available for hire to carry additional cargo if you need help along the trail. These men are incredible!
They would literally run past us up the mountain, while we struggled to catch our breath, carrying 20 kilos of gear and most of them were wearing sandals! (I highly recommend hiring a Porter if you are nervous about carrying heavy weight during the trek. It’s difficult without any cargo)!
We walked for hours upon hours up countless stairs and up steep hills for what seemed like an eternity. Because of the altitude, I felt like I couldn’t get in a full breath of air and would get winded really easily.
Today was definitely as challenging as they warn you it will be.
During a two hour stretch of the trail, we hiked a steep incline along a cliff edge and far below us we could see wild deer and llamas roaming the valley. I may have felt like I was dying, but the view was incredible.
As we passed through rainy jungles and freezing cold stretches of the trail I tried to stay focused to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Eventually, we made it past what is known as “Dead Woman’s Pass” to the peak at 13,776 feet above sea level. No wonder they call it Dead Woman!
While it was quite the achievement, we then had another two hour hike down the mountain in freezing cold conditions. By the time we reached camp my body was aching and all I wanted to do was pass out in our tent.
But here I am, blogging.
While it sounds like I had a terrible day, it was also unforgettable. During the 12 hours of hiking, I had a lot of challenging moments but also found some parts to be invigorating.
I found that listening to my iPod during the most difficult parts of the trek made setting a pace a lot easier. I basically danced my way up the mountain.
Thank goodness for hour long Dada Life mixes.
Our campsite for tonight has an incredible view and I’m hoping that I’ve exhausted myself enough to get a better night’s sleep.
16 km tomorrow!
Inca Trail Day 3: “Unforgettable”
We were up at 5:00 am again, and again, I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Today was our longest trek, in total 10 miles, up and down the Andean mountains.
It was a beautiful day… bright and sunny! We took our sweet time taking in the beautiful surroundings.
We saw hundreds of lupines and orchids as we hiked through endless jungles and archeological sites. It took almost 12 hours to finally reach our campsite after stopping at different sites and taking multiple breaks.
We ended our day just as Machu Picchu mountain appeared through the distant haze. We are just one sleep away from finally reaching Machu Picchu!
Day three down, one more to go.
The anticipation is killing me but, not gonna lie, I’m also getting excited for a warm bed and hot shower!
Inca Trail Day 4: “Machu Picchu”
It was a 6 km hike to Machu Picchu and we left in the pouring rain in the pitch black of the early morning. It took a couple of hours to reach Puerta del Sol, the first place you can see Machu Picchu from on the trail.
The view of Machu Picchu from above was insane! All four days leading up to the moment when it emerged from the clouds was indescribable.
I completed the Inca Trail!
It was one of the most physically challenging experiences in my life that made me face some of my own personal challenges as well. I spent a lot of time reflecting on my accomplishments, goals, successes, as well as challenges from this year and feel like I have a new clear conscience to take with me from this experience.
We hiked another hour downhill until we reached the site of Machu Picchu. It was raining but it actually added to the feeling we had when we arrived.
Unbelievable, indescribable… that doesn’t even begin to sum it up. I got to hug a llama and played hide and seek with my friend Lindsay in the ancient ruins.
We had lunch in Aguas Calientes, the town just down the way from Machu Picchu, then took the train to a bus in Urubamba and then took the bus to Cusco. It was a looooong day! Our guides and group all planned to go out in Cusco to celebrate, so we powered through the exhaustion and went out for a drink at a place in Cusco called Lek.
We got down with our bad selves. It was a great way to end an absolutely unforgettable experience!
Introducing ili: The World’s Fastest Offline Translator for Travelers
By Gloria Atanmo
One of the biggest struggles of long-term travel is finding ways to communicate in foreign countries. While English is very much a universal language, it shouldn’t be expected for other countries to always cater to you, and that’s why I try and learn at least 10-15 words of the local language before I arrive so that my effort is acknowledged and people are more likely to help with my needs.
But with my sporadic travels, sometimes I have to jump from one region of the world to another, as my brain thinks in Spanish and my words come out in Arabic. Basic sentences are a struggle sometimes, and my brain is juggling words of the last 5 countries I traveled to.
Which is why I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been trying out this cool new device called ili!
I consider myself proficient in Spanish, but like I mentioned, sometimes your brain just takes the day off, and words trip over themselves more than your middle school three-legged race.
I was so excited to give this ili device a spin during my recent trip to Argentina, especially because I was traveling in more remote regions where you are less likely to find English speakers.
So first, let me break down how ili works, and why you should give it a try.
HOW IT WORKS
ili can translate your words in as little as 0.2 seconds, as you input English, and it translates to either Spanish, Mandarin, or Japanese, depending on which you’re needing. Each device supports all three languages and there are even little booklets of travel tips that come with your package.
The best part is, no wifi connection is needed for this to work. So you can use this device for up to three days without needing to recharge it, and it will give you full functionality for any of the three languages needed.
HOW IT’S USEFUL
Running late to the airport? Need directions to the nearest mall? Trying to find a restaurant? Need the price for a taxi? There are endless questions and scenarios you might find yourself in while traveling, and this device can break the language barrier in a matter of seconds.
It should be noted that you can only work this with English as the input language. Oftentimes once a local is able to understand your question, they can then nod their head for yes, shake their head for no, point you in the right direction, or charade the movement of your answer.
While this shouldn’t be the only way you interact with locals, it is definitely a convenient way to make small errands or tasks easier to accomplish.
by Karel Topic
Why tour to Galapagos? Giant tortoises, Iguana lizards, blue-footed Boobies birds, seal colonies and other amazing animals are part of one of the best natural “safaris” in the world. The uniqueness of this place creates the behavior of all animals that are not afraid of people! Unbelievable animal world opens to you. You can observe them on Galapagos tours in immediate proximity and in their natural environment!
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and lie about 1000 km west from the mainland. The isolation allowed development of specific animal species. The islands have been made famous by the scientist Charles Darwin, who developed here his evolution theory. I have visited Ecuador and Galapagos during my travels around South America and took one of the Galapagos tour in November.
The Galapagos archipelago is of volcanic origin and is composed of many different islands, so the best way to explore them is to board a cruise and take a several days long cruise around Galapagos. You can choose from variety of Galapagos Tours. Some of the Galapagos tours are based on hotel stay with minimum time spent on the boat, but I recommend to enjoy a real Galapagos cruise! The islands are mostly uninhabited, left to their natural development, while carefully protected by the government of Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands lie on the equator and therefore they offer a very good and warm weather all year long. Galapagos Islands tours with a stay in the hotels are also available.
The cruise is comfortable and the crew takes good care of food preparation and running of the ship. Each Galapagos tour – cruise has scheduled landing twice a day and a guide takes you through the best places where you can observe Galapagos local fauna and flora. At almost all of the islands you can find different species of animals, and you will experience something unusual every day. Giant tortoises on the island of Santa Cruz, prehistorically-looking Iguanas on the Floriana Island, beautiful beaches with cute seal colonies on other islands. You can lie down next to them on the beach, this is allowed on all Galapagos tours.
Blue footed Boobies birds, who are so popular here, will dance in front of you their ritual dance, regardless of your presence. To my surprise, even crabs at the Galapagos do not fear of humans. Something is happening in the Galapagos every season – you can witness eggs laying by giant tortoises or brooders of small albatrosses, each Galapagos tour in any time of the year has something to offer!
The most popular and mostly photographed animals on each Galapagos tour are undoubtedly seals who are chasing down the beach in an attempt to dominate it, or they compete in water. You will have several opportunities on each Galapagos cruise to swim with them or at least lie down beside them on the beach and become a part of their world for a second. Taking photos is permitted on all Galapagos tours as you like, so everyone can take a lot of beautiful pictures.
I was surprised how much interesting information about wildlife and practical examples were told us during the Galapagos cruise. I do not like lapping up information about animal life, its origin, etc., but here everything is based on own experience with wild animals.
A very popular activity is daily snorkelling in the sea (if the program allows it twice a day). You can observe the rich marine life, you can swim with seals, with a little luck you’ll also be surrounded by a shoal of dolphins, as we were! For an additional fee to your Galapagos tour you can even dive at several renowned places to see “manta-rays” or hammerhead sharks.
Although the Galapagos Islands tours are not a cheap experience, actually one of the most expensive tours in South America, we strongly recommend these islands, because there is no similar place in the world. If you are lovers of animals in the wild and extraordinary experience in general, then you should not miss this Galapagos adventure! Come and try one of Galapagos Tours. From my own experience (travelling around the world) the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica and safari in Africa are the best places in the world for observing wildlife.
- Galapagos officially belong to Ecuador.
- Galapagos Islands comprise of 18 large and 40 tiny islands.
- The Galapagos Islands are located 1,000 km from mainland.
- The Galapagos Islands are of volcanic origin and lie on the equator.
- 4, 5 and 8-days Galapagos cruises are available (inland programs are available as well).
Visit of Argentina
I always like coming back to Argentina… The country has its specific magic and it is impossible to get know the country during just one visit. It was quite a short trip to Argentina and South America this time.
Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls
Taking a tour of Argentina? My holiday in Argentina started in Buenos Aires of course. Town nicknamed “Old Paris”, city of tango and football, that is Buenos Aires! Every trip to South America should include this stop. The city has several different parts so during my second visit I still keep discovering unknown places and attractions. Tour of Argentina wouldn’t be complete without a tour of Buenos Aires. Most popular tourist area is the city’s working-class neighbourhood of La Boca, where you’ll find streets with colourful little houses and tango is danced at every corner. This district, together with the neighbourhood of San Telmo is regarded as the place where tango originated, and the residents are really proud of it. Just as they are proud of their football club Boca Juniors, where Maradona used to play. The District of San Telmo is most alive on Sundays when there are markets held and the whole neighbourhood is overflowing with tourists. Spend few days when doing a tour in Argentina.
In the city centre you can find known avenues full of your favourite stores, in the district of Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho trendy boutiques and stylish boutique hotels. Buenos Aires is a city of many faces, where you can find the atmosphere of old Paris as well as modern-quarters full of stylish bars. Most Argentina Tours starts in Buenos Aires, it is no wonder why, it is one of the best landing places in South America when flying from Australia.
After exploring the city I went on a day trip to Uruguay, the historic town of Colonia, which is just about an hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires. The ancient streets and historic houses attract crowds of tourists. This can be easily add to your Argentina Tour, not just little town of Colonia but trip to Montevideo as well.
A very popular short trip from Buenos Aires is a flight to the Iguazu Falls. Some tours of Argentina starts in Iguazu because you can enter here from Brazil with no need of international flight. You need only a few days for this trip and you can see for yourself why is this complex considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. This is probably one of the most popular add-ons to your Argentina tour. You can enter Iguazu (or Iguassu) Falls from Argentinean side or Brazilian side. From both sides you can do a tour to Brazilian and Argentinean part of the falls and each side has something different to offer. If you don’t have much time then I recommend to take tour to Iguazu Falls in Argentina, as this part is larger and more complex. On the tour to Brazilian Iguassu Falls you can get a view from a bit of distance and get a better overview of the whole Iguazu Falls. I have to say that I have been enthralled by the Iguazu Falls far more than by the famous Niagara Falls in the U.S. I have visited the falls in the recent past when touring through South America so my journey continues to El Calafate in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia.
Not a long flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate and you enter natural paradise of Patagonia land! Do you love cooler clima, mountains, glaciers and thousands kilometres of wilderness? Then you are on a right place and tour of Argentina include one of the most wanted stop. Make a trip to El Calafate, it’s worth the journey. When you do a tour in Argentina you shouldn’t miss this part of this country. To the main highlights belong one of the most beautiful glacier in the world – Perito Moreno glacier, I was really surprised by size and amazingly clear light-blue colour of this glacier. This place is also gate to the hiking paradise of El Chalten area with beautiful Fitzroy peak. All natural lovers Shouldn’t miss a trip to Argentina including El Calafate area. It is also the best place where to get easily by bus from Argentina to Chilean part of Patagonia and it’s jewel – the national park Torres del Paine. Our trip leads even more towards southern part of Argentina and South America, Tiera del Fuego – Land of Fire.
And the Argentina Tour continues. Unlike the hot Buenos Aires cold mountain weather and temperature around 7 degrees Celsius in the middle of summer greets us in Ushuaia. Welcome to the southernmost city in the world!
This rather smaller town with its unique atmosphere is surrounded by mountains and national parks of the Patagonia region. I found out already the first day that the weather here changes every 5 minutes. But more surprising was the fact that at 10 pm there was still enough light and the sun was slowly going down. No wonder that most people here have dinner around 9 pm. It is a different Argentina, different part of your tour in Argentina.
Next morning I set off to the nearby national park Tierra del Fuego. A nice group of people met. We went kayaking down the river to Beagel’s Channel, then we continued on a boat to an island occupied by penguins, we visited a ranch of the first settlers, and the trip concluded with a stroll through the beautiful countryside, with stunning views of the National Park and lake. One of the best part of my Argentina tour!
Then my journey continues to Antarctica, which was the main purpose of my visit. My tour in Argentina draws to the end. You can read more about the trip to Antarctica in the Antarctica article.
Trip to Antarctica
I have decided to take a cruise to Antarctica! Wow, never thought I go on a trip from Australia to Antarctica. I mean I had to travel to South America to board one of the Antarctic cruises in Argentina. Initially I was choosing one of the cheap cruises to Antarctica initially then ended up with a mid range offer for Antarctica cruises. I am ready to start the adventure! As I realized Antarctic cruises are quite popular mostly between elderly people. So I took a flight to Argentina, specifically to Ushuaia.
Day 1 – Embarkation
Finally the day has come! I will board an expedition cruise to Antarctica in the port of the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. In the afternoon all passengers are on board and we can leave the shores heading to Antarctica, the last “untouched” continent. I am ready to cruise to Antarctica and enjoy the adventure of lifetime. I should mention by now I booked an 11 days long Antarctic cruise, starting and finishing in Argentina.
Our boat belongs to the smaller ones with capacity of 60 passengers and 20 crew members. Cabins on board are very comfortable, mostly for 2 people, and to my surprise there is a lot of storage space for all our stuff. We have a writing desk, sofa and sink right in the cabin, and a little window out. This should be comfortable cruise to Antarctica.
After we settled in the warm cabin, we were welcomed by the crew on board. They all behave very friendly and there really meet people from all over the world on the boat. The ship is originally Russian and therefore the crew is predominantly Russian. In addition to the Russians there are about 7 members of English-speaking staff who will care for our comfort, information, going ashore, etc. The boat has 7 floors and it is easy to move round it. Today’s part of the cruise is placid so we can go to one of the outdoor platforms and enjoy the surrounding snow-capped mountains of the slowly receding South America continent. A rich dinner follows and then we lie down to sleep, the first night on the cruise to Antarctica.
Day 2/3 – The Drake Passage
Waking up was not the best, because nobody really slept in the night. We sailed to the famous Drake Passage and rocking of the boat caused a restless sleep. Those who did not take a sea sickness pill yesterday after dinner left out the breakfast. I was prepared so I forced down pills at regular intervals to avoid unpleasant time spend on toilet. I don’t want to miss anything on this cruise discovering Antarctic beauty.
Cruises to Antarctica sail through the Drake Passage to the mainland takes about 2 days. During these days we listened to commentaries on nature and animals we should see, watched videos in the conference room and took part in necessary trainings on safety procedures on boat. Right at the start of the trip we tried evacuation of the ship in the polar rescue boats, which are completely enclosed, having their own engine and food and water supplies for several days, in case something happened on this Antarctic cruise.
I must admit that besides the mentioned briefings I slept through most of the days, tired of the constant rocking of our boat slowly cruising to Antarctica. After a restful night at sea, now people think that the worst part of the Drake Passage is over. What a mistake! At breakfast time the waves rose and the ship began “to dance” most since our departure from the harbour. Breakfast I thus largely left out, took a sea sickness pills and lie down. To be more specific, it was not so bad. I believe that it could be far worse, depending on each individual’s tolerance. This is the cruise to Antarctica I whispered. Tonight we should finally reach the South Shetland Islands, where sea calms down.
Day 3/4 – Trip to Antarctica – The South Shetland Islands
Here we continue with my Antarctica trip. At lunch time everything was better. I ate well and went to the captain’s bridge from where is the best view. I was really surprised how “open” is the ship for passengers on these trips to Antarctica. We can go anywhere to watch boat controlling and navigation for this Antarctica trip.
There was a really nice view of the wild ocean and massive waves from the bridge. Besides the large variety of birds, of which I only recognize the albatrosses, I have also seen four penguins jumping in the water alongside the boat. Whales should appear soon too. This is a trip of a lifetime, trip to Antarctica.
The boat is among other things equipped with a sauna, so one can warm up nicely in the cold weather on this Antarctica trip. In the afternoon, people already took the first photos of glaciers. Instructions on how we proceed the following day when landing on shore, accompanied by a lecture on the uniqueness of Antarctica and preserving its purity follow at the end of the day.
Day 4 – Antarctica – Antarctic Peninsula, first disembarkation, penguins, seals and whales
And finally to the mainland! Trip to Antarctica take a spin finally. Already around 8 o’clock in the morning we were warmly dressed and jumped into the boats heading to Mikkelsen Harbour. Guide showed us around glacial walls first and then we have set foot on the mainland among the nests of Gentoo penguins. There was a whole colony of them scattered around the water and on the hill. You can approach the penguins some 4 metres. But penguins themselves can break it. If a person crouches they often come just 1 meter close. Each nesting site has a carefully beaten path on which the penguins go to sea for food. In a nearby lake, some penguins play in the water. It is only about 4 degrees centigrade but penguins do not care, their feathers provide excellent thermal insulation. After a thorough visit to this site and dozens of great photos we hurry for lunch because you get hungry very quickly on Antarctica trips.
We have a magnificent view from the boat of the sunlit Curtis Bay, which is full of ice and floating debris from the glaciers. Beautiful day and beautiful trip to Antarctica! After a rest we have an even better view directly from the boats which took us all around the entire Bay. We are taking photos of ice floes and icebergs, we also glimpse whale fins (Minke whale) on this Antarctica trip. A little further seal sunbathes on a piece of ice. The giant icebergs break off from time to time, and bigger or smaller ice pieces fall with thunderous sound into the water. As we continue our tour individual boats transmit messages to others about discovered animals. All trips to Antarctica shows you an amazing nature and wildlife. We see another penguins and we also have a great view of the female elephant seal, whose size corresponds to the name. After several hours of experience on the boat we head back to the ship to continue with our Antarctica trip further south to other interesting sites. Curtis Bay is truly an experience and from the captain’s bridge we have a memorable view of the countryside full of ice in sunny weather which is not a standard on other Antarctica trips. We are lucky, a whale (Humpback Whale) appears in front of us and our captain successfully steers close to it. We enjoy the look at the whale for about half an hour, all cameras are in action. I bought a camera especially for this Antarctica trip. A really delicious dinner is followed by a documentary film about the place we go to tomorrow so we have something more to look forward on our trip to Antarctica.
Day 5 – Antarctica Tour – Camping in Antarctica
And our tour in Antarctica continues. We woke up to a chilly day, nevertheless in a beautiful bay at Port Lockroy, where one of the oldest cottages (stations) is located. British researchers lived here decades ago. The cottage is now rebuilt and located in a beautiful bay surrounded by penguin nests. It serves nowadays as a museum of how people lived here in the last century and there is also a functional post, the only one in Antarctica. Therefore most of us are sending postcards and buying souvenirs from Antarctica, to let our friends know how the tour in Antarctica goes. This whole place is surrounded by beautiful glaciers and snowy peaks. There is enough to watch and we can say the same for the whole Antarctica tour.
We could pay a bit more for extra activities such as mountaineering and kayaking. At regular intervals passengers divides into two groups, one group sets off kayaking along the glacial coast and the second group climbs the nearby hills and glacial peaks. Not all tours to Antarctica offers these optional activities.
Around lunch time the sun comes up and one feels like in a paradise. Everything shines in white colour and a whale that wanders lazily close to our boat enhances it all. Wonderful Antarctica Tour! All people are on board trying to get the best shot. Then we move further on along the channel, offering magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. We pass several whales and even a shoal of about 10 Minke whales. Sunny weather and calm sea accompany us all the afternoon on our Antarctica tour.
In late afternoon we arrive to the Pleanau Island and the adjacent bay offers perhaps the best view of the icebergs floating in the water. The whole area looks like a scrap yard of loose pieces of ice, the entire bay is filled with icebergs. Later we get on small boats to get closer to icebergs. Each piece has its own distinctive shape, colour, size. Brightly shining sun creates a wonderful spectacle. The whole bay is surrounded by high snowy mountains and it is hard to decide which way is better outlook. An integral part of the whole scenery are sunbathing seals and penguins. An unforgettable experience was when about 30 penguins appeared not far from our boat and they suddenly swam against us and jumped out of the water like dolphins.
Beautiful weather and clear sky enabled another exciting part of the sailing trip – camping in the open air on the mainland of Antarctica! Again choose your tour to Antarctica wisely, not every cruise offers this experience. This overnight stay is completely voluntary, at least half of the passengers enthusiastically agree though. Really great experience on this Antarctica tour, lie down to sleep in a sleeping bag, having a pile of snow instead of a pillow. Curious Gentoo penguins are walking by and a big elephant seal lies not far either. The sun sets around midnight, offering an incredible spectacle. The play of lights and shades on the white Antarctica is really an experience. Do not look for a starry sky here. Really dark night does not occur here once. I slept well till about 6 am when the noise of penguins woke me up. Waking up in the middle of the white landscape will certainly belong to my greatest experience from this tour in Antarctica.
Day 6 – Polar research station and penguins colonies
Back on the ship and after a hearty breakfast we move further south to the Argentine Islands and anchor near the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Station. We enjoy another absolutely beautiful day with clear blue sky. We have visited the research station, which was very cosy and well equipped with everything you can imagine: kitchen, gym, doctor´s office, bar (with a sufficient stock of vodka), pool table, a sauna, an ozone hole research centre and many others. The crew on the station is very nice and willing to show us the whole station. In the next bay we visit an original cottage, which has served researchers in the 40´s and everything here is well-preserved. The view of the surrounding glaciers and mountains on a clear day like this is amazing. Near the cottage two types of seals (Fure and Weddell seals) are lying. They are not distracted by our visit at all and our tour in Antarctica continues quietly.
In the afternoon we spent several hours on Petermann Island, where there are many penguin colonies again. Gentoo and Adelie penguins are to be seen here. Also Antarctic cormorants, all in the breeding season, spread over the surrounding rocks. It’s really fascinating to observe the life of penguins from only several meters, watch them taking care of their eggs, building stone by stone their nests, or setting off in their funny walking manner to the sea for food. All tours to Antarctica visit a bit similar places and the difference is mainly making the boat you are on.
A little surprise on our tour across Antarctica is ready for us in the evening – grilling at the stern of the boat and the whole dinner is a party. Music is playing, hot wine is being poured, buffet style dinner all around and there is a great atmosphere of course. Cooks really work hard, so we have a great dinner with beautiful views of glaciers and even a whale swims nearby the ship. What more can one desire? Perfect end of the day on our Antarctica tour.
Day 7 – Expedition to Antarctica – Glaciers, icebergs and swimming in Antarctica waters
Our Antarctic Expedition continues. We moved into the Paradise Bay, which is flanked by steep glacial walls. We set out on boats to take pictures of light blue blocks of ice. Today you need to dress properly and add an additional layer. Cloudy sky and windy weather make you feel chilly on this Antarctic expedition. Disembarkation follows and a hike to a small hill from where there is a magnificent view of the whole region. On the way back we use natural slides in the snow and everyone is having fun. Around lunch time the sun is peeping through the clouds again. Our Antarctic expedition continues to Cuverville Island.
Afternoon disembarkation takes place in the beautiful Bay of Islands Cuverville, in a beautiful sunny weather. We couldn’t pray for a better weather on this Antarctic expedition. Sun cream, backpack and about four of us set off to the highest hill on the island. Among the colonies of penguins we climb the hill and after about an hour we stand on the top to enjoy the best views throughout the entire Antarctica expedition. The weather is incredible and the sight of snow-capped mountains, blue sky and the bay full of blue-coloured icebergs creates a scenery one never forgets. The way down is quick, just sit down on the ass and create your own slide downwards.
Soon after return to the ship the leading chief announced a swim in Antarctic waters for those of us used to cold. What an Antarctica expedition! Sunny weather encourages us to take part in this unusual experience, nevertheless water temperature commands respect. The thermometer indicates 0° C. However, I am here probably for the first and last time in my life so I jump from the deck on the 3rd floor straight into the depths. I do not have to describe how cold the water was. A couple of strokes alongside the ship and quickly into the sauna to warm up. The experience was worth it. After dinner, the captain reported killer whales on the horizon, we have not met this species during this Antarctic expedition yet. In twenty minutes the entire whale family (about 5 orcas) is near the ship. Sunset again offers spectacular views of the Antarctica. In the evening our Antarctic expedition moves north to the Deception Island.
Day 8 – Deception Island and giant seals
We have reached the Deception Island in the morning, which is known for its volcanic activity (still active). Favourite place is black beach where you can dig a hole in the sand and lie down into warm water that is heated by the hot ground.
After lunch we moved a few miles further to Elephant Point. The last landing follows and a couple of hours ashore before the Antarctic expedition takes direction back to Ushuaia. I must say that I had the feeling nothing can surprise me anymore, but the last tour was worth it. We passed several beaches with dozens of giant elephant seals. These “manikins” weigh about 1 tonne and when they started moving it was really fantastic. I wish to everybody who takes expedition to Antarctica to enjoy similar moments.
Day 9 -11 – Way back to Ushuaia
The way back to Argentina leads through the Drake Passage again. Various presentations and programmes are still broadcasted on the boat. Now it´s the time to sum up the whole adventure in my head and have a look at the pictures taken. Antarctic expedition popularity is best testified by a woman, who have set off for the journey already seven times!
The entire Antarctic expedition was perfectly organized, everything went as planned, the food was delicious, the crew was nice, guides were great from the start to the end, the program offered pleasantly surprised me every day and the weather was just a bonus on the top of that! This Antarctic expedition has become a unique and extraordinary experience, which can be hardly compared to any other place in the world. I highly recommend this Antarctic expedition, it can’t disappoint you.